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RFID System Tracks Trips, Fringe Benefits, for Bike Commuters

Dero hopes health-insurance firms may subsidize the costs of its Zap system, as a means of encouraging a company's employees to maintain a healthier lifestyle.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Feb 17, 2010Since Jan. 1, 2009, employers that provide bicycle parking—or other support for workers who pedal their way to the office—have been able to deduct up to $20 a month per participating employee from their own taxable income.

Dero Bike Racks, a Minneapolis, Minn., manufacturer of racks and other bike-storage systems, has introduced an RFID system called Zap, in order to provide companies with a means of tracking and verifying their employees' practice of commuting to work by bicycle. By deploying Zap, employers can have an automated means of doling out the $20 monthly stipend awarded to bike-riding commuters as laid out in section 211 of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (H. R. 1424). The stipend is meant to defray employee costs for bicycle maintenance and accessories, such as locks—and since it is tax-free, the award is meant to encourage employers to provide adequate bike parking, as well as showers for staff members who ride bicycles.

A solar-powered Zap RFID interrogator, deployed at a local university carrying out a pilot program

There is no mandated means by which companies must track which of their employees ride to work and have thus earned the stipend—nor is there a delegated number of days per week that a worker must ride in order to qualify. The law merely states that a qualifying employee "regularly uses the bicycle for a substantial portion of the travel between the employee's residence and place of employment."

Some companies simply have their workers keep a manual record that they submit to their supervisors.

Dero hopes employers will purchase the Zap system, because it would provide an automated, low-maintenance means of tracking which employees ride to work, and how often, and because it would offer a platform by which companies might also offer incentive rewards to staff members who, for instance, ride to work every day of the week.

Mike Anderson, Dero's product manager, says his company also hopes that health-insurance firms may subsidize the costs of the Zap system for businesses that are policy holders, as a means of encouraging employees of these companies to maintain better health (and, thus, lower health-care costs) through the benefits of biking regularly.

Zap uses passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags complying with the EPC Gen 2/ISO 18000-6c standard.

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